Netanyahu approves new settlement only two days prior to general elections

Occupied Jerusalem /PNN/

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has approved the construction of a new settlement in the occupied West Bank, asIsrael goes ahead with land expropriation and settlement construction policies in violation of international law and UN Security Council resolutions.

The cabinet agreed on Sunday to turn the wildcat settlement of Mevoot Yericho in the Jordan Valley into an official settlement, Netanyahu’s office said. It came only two days ahead of closely fought general elections as the premier and his main opponent Benny Gantz sought to rally support.

Around 30 families live in the outpost, which was established in 1999. Israeli settlers regularly set up caravan homes at sites in the West Bank with the hope of eventually gaining Israel’s  approval as a settlement, which has repeatedly occurred.

The approval follows the Israeli premier’s pledge last week to annex the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea if he wins the September 17 snap polls.

Israel occupied the West Bank in the 1967 Six-Day War, in a move never recognized by the international community.

The Jordan Valley accounts for around one-third of the West Bank. Israeli right-wing politicians have long viewed the 2,400-square kilometer (926.65-square mile) strategic area as a part of the territory they would never retreat from and stated that the Israeli military would maintain its control there under any peace agreement with the Palestinians.

On Tuesday evening, Netanyahu promised to annex the Jordan Valley if he wins next week’s general elections, drawing sharp criticism from the Palestinians as well as countries in the Middle East, including Jordan, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

He also reiterated his intention to annex Israeli settlements throughout the West Bank if re-elected. Netanyahu said the move would be in coordination with US President Donald Trump.

Netanyahu went on to say that he would wait for the Trump administration to announce its controversial proposal for “peace” between the Israeli regime and the Palestinians; dubbed “the deal of the century,” before Israel makes any major policy changes on the status of Israeli settlements.

More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The UN Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied territories in several resolutions.

Less than a month before US President Donald Trump took office, the United Nations Security Council in December 2016 adopted Resolution 2334, calling on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem”.

Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.

The last round of Israeli-Palestinian talks collapsed in 2014. Among the major sticking points in those negotiations was Israel’s continued settlement expansion on Palestinian territories.